A tornado and blissful disregard

Why were there no “safe rooms” at the Moore, Oklahoma, schools on Monday when a giant tornado roared through killing at least seven children at Tower Plaza School?  I did not need the New York Times to tell me the answer.   Cost and, most of all, powerful anti-government attitudes.

I can understand why some do not want big government to mandate what is done with individual homes although we all submit to government electrical and building codes without a flinch.  But to ignore safety in public buildings, particularly in our schools where young children can be trapped like sardines in a can as a storm approaches, well, that’s too much.

Shame on state leaders who reject protecting children because of their ideological beliefs.   Bite your beliefs, spend the money for the kids.

Again, what’s the value of a young life?


Old friendships bring back specter of death

It started out innocently enough.  It started with the death of my high school coach, Tom.

Tom’s obit appeared last September in a small newspaper in my Kansas hometown.  Once I saw the obit I knew I had to write something.   It was as if Tom  showed up for work those four years and did nothing but punch in his timecard.

It didn’t mention he turned around the athletic program.  It didn’t mention Tom’s football teams were unbeaten his last three seasons there.  It didn’t mention his last basketball team reached the state semifinals and probably should’ve won the championship.

The article I wrote, a “Tribute” the headline said, was published a few weeks later, in October.

By then I had been in a self-imposed exile from my hometown for decades.  Too many bad memories.  Everytime I thought of my hometown I got a gut ache.   I had not seen my closest high school friends in 50 years.  Had no idea whether they had died.

But once the “tribute” appeared I was thrown back into the old days as surely as someone had rigged a time machine.   Letters and phone calls came rolling in.

At first it was all good.  I connected with my two best friends, former teammates and many others.   I was swept up in the moment, and as I mentioned to someone, it was like reclaiming my youth, a youth that had more or less been a blank page for so long.

But it was not long before reality closed in on the  good feeling.

By letting these people back into my life I came face to face with my own mortality.  Out here in the arid lands, a thousand miles away,  I could fool myself about death, that I could live, if not indefintiely, then for a long, long time.  But once back in the old circle of freindships I quickly saw that many of my contemporaries were dead or dying.  And what did the say about me?

First, there was Harold, my junior-year center when I was making my debut as quarterback.  Harold died suddenly of a heart attack.  Then Alfred, a teammate and best-man at my wedding with Brenda, died.  Mike, the doctor’s son who drove us to work one summer at a missile silo in his Karman Ghia convertible, bit the dust.  Others followed, and my mood, once blissfully ignorant, began to turn somber.

I recently received an email from one of my pals who described himself now as “the old man” who can’t keep up with the boys only a few years younger, going to bed at 10 o’clock.   Living out here in Arizona I could remember him as the leading scorer on our basketball team.  I can’t do that any longer.  I hated to hear him talk like that.

I’m not a glutton for self-punishment.  I wonder if I knew back in September what I know now, would I ever have written a “tribute” to my old coach, Tom?

A slaughtering tribe

You do not have to actually pull the trigger of a gun or a harpoon of course to be guilty of the needless killing of animals, particularly species who are endangered.  You can be a Japanese dining at a seafood restaurant , a Thai collector of ivory or an American eating a hamburger.  Your consumption habit may be the cause of dwindling wildlife populations thousands of miles away.

There is constant pressure on these animals.  I know this but I have to keep reminding myself.

In an editorial today, the New York Times points out that not only Japan is continuing to hunt whales despite what is largely a world-wide moratorium, but Iceland will soon resume killing fin whales and Hawaii  wants the humpbacks removed from the endangered list.

In the African country of Chad, 86 elephants were gunned down last week by poachers using automatic weapons and their ivory stripped away for sale in Asia.   Add that number to the 300 that were slaughtered last year in Cameroon.

I am not a religious person, and I do not believe humans were born with the  right given by any god to use the world as we so choose.  We are in a world that more than ever is meant for people and animals to live in a balanced way.  After those animals are gone, there is no god under the sun that will bring them back.

Jodi Arias verdict: No winners here

I had not watched the Jodi Arias murder trial but I knew enough from a few news accounts to know that it involved a grisly act.  And today I watched TV coverage with the cynic’s eye as the verdict came in.  Guilty in the first degree.

While I assume the jury’s verdict was a just one, I was appalled at the world attention the trial had brought to Arias and this desert island called Phoenix, Arizona.   A CNN reporter said it was a combination of an attractive defendant, “an extremely attractive” victim in Travis Alexander and intimate details about their sexual affairs.

I was appalled why normally intelligent and sensitive people would get so wrapped up in the misery of others.  It is hard to figure any other answer but that these Arias trial devotees have little going on in their own lives and live, not only in this trial but in most things, vicariously.

I was appalled why, for instance, that a bureau of the local newspaper had created a lottery on the trial’s outcome.  First-degree murder, second-degree, manslaughter or acquittal.  The tie-breaker was the closest time the verdict would come in.   That is about as cold and distant as you come.  This was not a game here.   Not like a Final Four pool.

And then after the verdict was announced you see all those people in the street acting as simpletons, cheering and celebrating as if the local NBA team had won a big playoff game.   Our “team” had won, yours had lost.  And the reporters chasing down the smallest shred of info from those who packed the courtroom.  Helicopters circling above.  If you didn’t know the meaning of “media circus,” you knew it now.

There were no winners here today.  Just sadness.  A young man murdered and his girlfriend, a seemingly intelligent young woman with huge emotional issues, is going up the river for a long time and perhaps, though I hope not, be put to death.

You have to wonder, is there any hope in the long run for the human species?  Is Jodi Arias really any colder and less sensitive that the celebrants?   You have to wonder, don’t you?